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Botox for the Résumé: One Woman's Image Makeover

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question everything Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 03:49 PM
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Botox for the Résumé: One Woman's Image Makeover
The Wall Street Journal


Botox for the Résumé: One Woman's Image Makeover
June 26, 2008; Page D1

At age 49, Lisa Johnson Mandell found her career "kind of sputtering." After 20-plus years as an entertainment broadcaster and film reviewer, she began to see jobs she applied for going to people she knew were younger. "I kept thinking, 'There has got to be someone out there who will value my experience,'" she says. Her husband, Jim Mandell, president of a Hollywood voiceover agency, told her frankly, "People are rejecting you out of hand because you are too old." The competition for jobs can seem age-biased in our youth-obsessed culture. Today's economic slump has hit just as legions of new college graduates reach the job market. Employers are eager to fill their offices with youthful energy and technological savvy, as well as the openness to new ideas that also makes 18- to 34-year-olds so tantalizing to advertisers. Our culture is so spellbound by youth that even some people in their early 40s think they've aged out of the fast lane and feel pressure to remove the years surgically.

But is employers' apparent preference for youth really about wrinkles? Or do companies simply want workers who keep pace with the times? Many mature job candidates rest on their laurels and fail to create a modern image, says Maxine Martens, chief executive of the executive-recruitment agency Martens & Heads in New York. Looking young isn't the key: Attitude and knowledge of today's world are just as important. "It's your job to stay contemporary," she tells candidates. Ms. Martens, who is 60, founded her company after being fired from a recruiting job at age 54. She sometimes sends candidates to her hairstylist for an updated style, but she also suggests they try new gigs as fearlessly as they did in the past. Mr. Mandell, 60, concedes that his advice to his wife came from his own biases at his agency. "I unfortunately believe that I am of the same mind-set that most other people are -- that younger is better," he says.

This came as a shock to Ms. Johnson Mandell, a bubbly extrovert. "Who would ever dream that '20-plus years of experience' would be a liability?" she said earlier this year, referring to a selling point typed at the top of her résumé. "These are strange times." Yet she resisted the urge to turn to surgery or cosmetic procedures and started eliminating the age lines from her job search instead. On her résumé, she removed the 1980 date of her summa-cum-laude college graduation and deleted some early jobs. Removing early jobs and dates is ethical, says Wendy Enelow, an executive-career consultant. She says she often removes early jobs from the résumés of candidates in their late 40s, focusing on their past 10 to 15 years of experience.

To show she's as hip to new media as her 20-something rivals, Ms. Johnson Mandell launched a video-blog site, with the help of a young Web designer she found on CraigsList. She loaded the site with her film reviews and celebrity interviews to illustrate her Hollywood access without focusing on the two decades it took to build. She concedes the Web site drove little traffic except for the kind that really mattered: Her new résumé directed employers to her Web site rather than a street address. When her husband suggested she hire a stylist and photographer to shoot photos of her, Ms. Johnson Mandell asked a 20-something friend to come over and root through her closet for a handful of young-looking outfits. Ms. Johnson Mandell wound up with at least one that she would never have chosen herself: a studded T-shirt and jeans. She refers to the set of photos jokingly as her "mother-daughter" looks. The T-shirt and jeans are the "daughter" look, while a shot in a sleek black turtleneck is the "mother." She put a photo on her résumé -- choosing different looks for different employers -- and placed several on her Web site. She didn't airbrush the photos. "That's all me there," she says.

Responses to her new résumé hit within a week... Once the doors opened, Ms. Johnson Mandell says, age seemed less of an issue. Several months ago, she signed on with Digital Publishing for a salary, stock options, and a percentage of ad revenue in the brand-new site. Rob Garretson, Digital Publishing's 49-year-old vice president of editorial, says he had assumed a young person would run the Web site, but Ms. Johnson Mandell "demonstrated all the energy and enthusiasm" that made age irrelevant.


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mrreowwr_kittty Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 03:52 PM
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1. She looks fantastic! I hope I look that good at her age. nt
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 03:54 PM
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2. well it worked for her
but most of the time when you walk in the door they can still figure out that you're 49 -- actually, i assume she's claiming 49 and is actually older, since the influential hubby is 60....

age discrimination is real and spending a lot of money on a video blog isn't going to change reality for most of us, it's just another job hunting expense that ain't gonna pay off

the minute they call for college transcripts the truth about her age comes out anyway...
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Indenturedebtor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 04:11 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Nothing much can/will be done about it
The young are often "discriminated against" because of our youth and relative inexperience. In some markets that's a plus, in others a negative. Can't have it both ways I'm afraid. :shrug:
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pitohui Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 04:34 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. the young are not discriminated against
if i have two choices to hire in front of me and one of them has 20 yrs of experience and i choose her that isn't discrimination that's just choosing the person who has 20 yrs of experience -- something you too will want to benefit from after you've been working 20 yrs

if i have two choices and i pick the one with no experience because of her youth, then it's clear cut discrimination

if the two choices were a black man w. 20 yrs of experience and a white man with 0 yrs experience and i picked the white man you'd see the problem right away

age discrimination is real and if you plan to live into your 40s it will affect you too, even tho i realize most young people have this idea they'll be 25 forever so they figure they don't care until it's their parents hitting them up for a loan
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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 05:00 PM
Response to Reply #4
5. "Experience" can be a two-edged sword, particularly in tech
Is this person a past-master, or just set in their ways? I've seen developers not hired because they'd been working with a language for too long; habits ossify.
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Indenturedebtor Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 05:05 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. It depends on the job I think
If I wanted someone to create advertising campaigns for a youth market I'd choose the 25 year old.

If I wanted someone to do something where experience was the biggest factor then I would go with experience.

I'm 28 and in sales. I was also in IT for a couple of years. I've outperformed plenty of people with more years and experience. There is more to a person's abilities than experience or youth.
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Missy Vixen Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jun-27-08 05:31 PM
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7. I'm in my late 40's
I was talking with my husband the other day about the fact that the lumps, bumps and wrinkles that would have been acceptable 20 years ago on anyone over 40 just aren't now, especially if you are in the modern workplace.

Young is good, but there's a lot to be said for experience.

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